No. 4 Boise St plays down payback in facing Nevada
The last time Nevada and Boise State squared off the Wolf Pack mounted a furious second-half rally before winning the game on a field goal in overtime, ruining the Broncos' bid for a second straight perfect season and even loftier postseason dreams.
So Boise State's motivation heading into Saturday's rematch would seem clear.
Payback? Revenge? Redemption?
Try none of the above.
''I call it just another game where we have something to prove,'' safety George Iloka said of No. 4 Boise State's focus heading into Saturday's game at Bronco Stadium. ''I don't want to call it revenge. It's a different team we're facing. Even if we beat this team this year, it won't change what happened last year.''
Still, Iloka and the rest of his teammates acknowledge bitter memories linger from last season's collapse in Reno.
The Broncos led by 17 at halftime and seemed poised and primed to for a 10th straight win over their longtime conference rivals.
But Nevada, led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, stormed back. Kaepernick threw for 259 yards and used his legs to help the Wolf Pack amass a whopping 258 yards on the ground in the second half. Aided by a pair of missed Bronco field goals from short range - one with two seconds left in regulation and the other in overtime - Nevada went on to beat then-No. 3 Boise State 34-31.
Nevada coach Chris Ault immediately declared the victory the biggest in school history.
For the Broncos, the loss ended their 24-game winning streak and dashed any hopes of appearing in the BCS title game.
''Last year didn't come out the way we wanted it to, and that sticks with you,'' said Broncos defensive end Jarrell Root. ''But I don't think it's going to do all that much Saturday.''
The Nevada team (1-2, 1-0 Western Athletic Conference) coming to Boise is very different from the one that gave the Broncos second-half fits last year. Kaepernick, the key to Nevada's potent pistol offense, and defensive leader Dantay Moch, are both gone and playing in the NFL.
Ault has yet to find an answer to replace Kaepernick, and through the first three games has shared control of the offense between senior Tyler Lantrip and redshirt freshman Cody Fajardo, depending on the game situation.
In a 35-34 loss last week at Texas Tech, Lantrip started, but was replaced midway through the second quarter by Fajardo, who led the Wolf Pack on an 83-yard scoring drive. Overall, Fajardo threw two TD passes, ran for a 56-yard score and finished with 139 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Ault says he's pleased with the growth of both, but refused earlier this week to declare his starter against Boise State (3-0).
''They'll both be a part of this offense and play Saturday,'' Ault said. ''We'll try to utilize both of their talents as best we can.''
Ault's offense is typically one of the most productive in college football, and this year is no different, even with his rotating quarterbacks. Nevada ranks 15th in the nation in total yards on offense, averaging 483 yards per game, and just behind Boise State at 486 per game.
But the production hasn't translated into points, thanks in part to penalties and turnovers in the red zone. Through the first three games, the Wolf Pack are averaging 23 points per game, 90th in the nation, and have been burned by seven turnovers. The offense has produced touchdowns on a little more than 50 percent of its trips inside the red zone.
''We have really shot ourselves in the foot,'' Ault said.
Nevada will need all the points it can get to keep pace with Kellen Moore and the Bronco offense.
Moore may still be suffering the lingering effects of a knee injury and was sporting a knee brace in last week's 41-21 win over Tulsa, the Broncos' 33rd straight at home. Despite the hitch in his gait, Moore threw for four touchdowns and left midway through the second quarter with the game well in hand.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen batted away questions on the status of Moore's knee earlier in the week and it's unclear how much it will impact the nation's third most efficient passer.